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Zakat is one of the five basic tenets of Islam. Zakat means purity. Thus, this implies that a man purifies his yearly earnings by giving away one part of it in the path of God. This further implies that man should understand that his earnings or his possessions are not a result of his own making but they are a bounty given by Allah. Thus, Zakat is, in essence, a practical acknowledgment of God’s bounties. And this admission is no doubt the greatest form of worship.
Payment of Zakat every year is obligatory, on every earning Muslim, at the minimum fixed rate of 2.5 percent per annum, on all wealth that is subject to growth. This amount is given for worthy religious causes ‘for the sake of God’ and for meeting the needs of the poor and the helpless.
Zakat management in India
Every year a considerable sum of money is donated in the name of Zakat in India. Have you ever wondered how much Zakat is being generated in India every year? Let’s assume that out of 15 million Muslims, only One Million contribute the minimum amount of Zakat for a lakh of rupees, which is Rs 2500. Even at these conservative figures, the amount comes out to Rs 25,000,000,000!!! And in reality, the actual amount is much more than this.
It leads one to wonder where all this money is being spent and by whom? According to sources, conservatively we can say that 80 percent of this amount is gobbled by the religious educational institutions. Fair enough, they have their expenses and need to be taken care of. But does this figure reflect in the quality of education imparted by them or the overall personalities of their students? No, not there, but in the style of living of their administrators!
Further according to sources this year most of the institutions that collect Zakat, are deducting 40 to 45 percent of the Zakat collected as administrative expenses, and these administrative expenses are completely unaccounted for. This leads us to surmise that our Zakat money is not being used properly and productively for the benefit of the Indian Muslims, to ameliorate their lot. Instead, it is being managed in an unsystematic, unprofessional, and individualistic manner.
Secondly, most of us consider giving out Zakat as a burden, not as a duty or as a contribution enjoined by Allah to spread joy and wealth within the community. Thirdly, Zakat collection has become a business and many institutes who collect and survive Zakat are doing it in a professional and unIslamic manner.
How to manage Zakat more productively
In the current scenario, it becomes incumbent on our religious scholars and leaders to ponder over this question. It would be prudent on their part to sit together and constitute a central Zakat Fund for the whole of India, with branches in every state capital and sub-branches in every big city and town.
Every Indian Muslim who has to pay Zakat should be directed to deposit his contributions in specified bank accounts managed by the Zakat Fund, which in turn should be managed by a committee of religious, community, and social leaders and professional accountants, and financial experts.
In addition, those who are not using banking or digital financial tools should deposit their Zakat in a box, which should be placed in every Masjid of the country, along with a box for contribution to the Masjid. These boxes should be opened quarterly and money deposited in the accounts of the Zakat Fund. The Imam and Mueizzins of the Masjids should be made responsible to manage these boxes and their contents. The Zakat Fund should pay the salaries of the Imams and Muezzins of the mosques, instead of them being disbursed by the respective state Waqf.
They should further be tasked to prepare a database of the needy and destitute in their locality and forward it to the state and central offices. This will engage the local Imams in the collection and disbursement of Zakat to the needy in their area based on real inputs. It will also empower them to handhold the families who are being given financial help, on how to better their life and circumstances and get out of poverty by pursuing education or a small business and other means to better their family situation instead of relying on community help for a lifetime. Once this starts happening in real terms, then we’ll find that the number of poor in the community has come down drastically, and instead once who were poor are now helping others.
The central committee of the Zakat Fund should oversee the total collections and their disbursement. First on the list should be the religious institutions, second destitute families and third would be community projects which would help the community in different fields like, education, medical facilities, scholarships, hostels, and educational expenses for the poor students and entrepreneurial seed funds for giving out loans to deserving individuals to start new ventures.
We can only imagine wishfully, if we have a Central Committee of committed elders who manages this money, then within a span of 2 to 5 years, we’ll be able to build a well-equipped hospital in every district of the country, a university in every state capital, a secondary school in every village, a degree college in every town and city and homes for destitute, widows, orphans and physically handicapped in every district of the country, to be used by every citizen of the country.
Personal Zakat management
Lastly, we should also discuss why most of us consider giving out Zakat as a burden. This is due to our own foolish thinking and money management and desire to get maximum benefit even for doing a good deed. A wrong perception prevails amongst most of us that Zakat should be given out in the month of Ramazan, as the reward for giving out alms in this month is 70 times more. Both these concepts are erroneous and unIslamic and have no mention in the Holy Quran.
So, to make our Zakat contribution easier on our pocket and also make it more fruitful, what we can do is to calculate our yearly Zakat and divide it by 12. This sum we should take out from our salary or business profits every month and keep aside and hand over to a needy as someone approaches us, instead of waiting for Ramazan. Remember, your Zakat for the next year becomes due as soon as the current year’s Ramazan ends, which means that you are continuously under obligation to the Almighty Allah to pay your Zakat.
These musings are just that of a common Muslim and are based on common sense and practical solutions. Let’s hope and pray that our community’s religious elders take heed of these ideas and suggestions. This will definitely make our community financially stronger and self-sustainable in a short time and also contribute to the welfare of our brethren in the country through institutions and programs managed by our Zakat Fund. Ameen. (IANS/SP)
(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi.)
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)
Amid the rush to find quick treatments for Covid-19 last year, the world saw a global race to find new stem cell-based treatments. Now, researchers report that such therapies were filled with violations of government regulations, inflated medical claims and distorted public communication. There are reports of patients suffering physical harm -- including blindness and death -- from unproven stem cell therapies.
"Efforts to rapidly develop therapeutic interventions should never occur at the expense of the ethical and scientific standards that are at the heart of responsible clinical research and innovation," said lead study author Laertis Ikonomou, associate professor of oral biology at University at Buffalo, New York. There are clinics offering unproven and unsafe "stem cell" therapies that promise to prevent Covid-19 by strengthening the immune system or improving overall health, the researchers noted in the paper published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
There are reports of patients suffering physical harm -- including blindness and death -- from unproven stem cell therapies. | Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash
The findings from preliminary studies on possible stem cell-based Covid-19 treatments are frequently being exaggerated through press releases, social media and uncritical news media reports. Clinics selling supposed stem cell treatments on a direct-to-consumer basis sometimes use these findings and news reports to exploit the fears of vulnerable patients by unethically advertising the unproven benefits of stem cell treatments to boost the immune system, regenerate lung tissue and prevent transmission of Covid-19, said co-author Leigh Turner from the University of California, Irvine.
"Patients suffer financially as well, as the products range in price from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, and people are often encouraged to receive the expensive treatments every few months," added Ikonomou. Patients led to believe they are protected against Covid-19 may decide against vaccination, stop wearing masks, cease engaging in physical distancing, or otherwise avoid behaviours intended to promote personal safety and public health.
They may also become less likely to take part in carefully-developed clinical trials conducted by companies that follow ethical standards. "Scientists, regulators and policymakers must guard against the proliferation of poorly designed, underpowered and duplicative studies that are launched with undue haste because of the pandemic, but are unlikely to provide convincing, clinically meaningful safety and efficacy data," Turner stressed. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: findings,studies,therapies,unproven,reports,treatments, pandemic, covid, world